Friday, November 9, 2018

Getting to the Bottom of Your Bottom Line Issues

By: George Singos and Rob Stauffer

Do you really know how profitable your business is? Do you find that revenue is going up, but profits are going down or staying the same? Or maybe your business is successfully gaining new customers, but your bottom line isn’t showing the same growth?

To keep your business operating into the future, it is essential to understand why this is happening and how it can be fixed. Since there are so many potential reasons a business could be struggling to increase profits, it is important to approach this question from a number of perspectives to identify all issues present in operations.

For example, it can be helpful to view these issues through both costing and sales lenses, combining these approaches to make impactful changes to profits. In practice, this might involve the following techniques:
  • Eliminate work that is not profitable. The first step to getting rid of work that is not profitable is to identify which products aren’t making as much money. This can be accomplished by performing an activity-based cost analysis on current activities. Activity-based costing identifies and assigns costs to activities in an organization according to their actual consumption. This method of costing often is used when organizations are looking to eliminate products that are unprofitable and focus on those that are more lucrative. For example, let’s say a company makes three products, Products A, B and C. Product A makes up 20% of gross margin, B is 40% of gross margin and C is 12% of gross margin. Taking into account Selling, General & Administrative (SG&A) expenses at 15% added cost on each, Product A now provides 5% margin, B is 25% and C is -3%. When looking at the products this way, it is clear that Product C should be eliminated as it is essentially costing the organization money. Or, the company might decide to pursue additional business with customers that require more of Product C to increase its share of revenue.  This process of breaking down costs and identifying the products that are not making money often is referred to as “finding the dogs,” or bad products, within your business. While in reality there might be hundreds of products or machines or materials at a facility that need to be evaluated using this model, the benefits of “finding the dogs” are worth the time invested. 
  • Sell to open capacity. In a similar vein, an organization should strive to identify and fill any open capacity within operations. For this example, let’s look at three pieces of equipment in a facility, Machines 1, 2 and 3. Machine 1 is 50% utilized, with Machine 2 being 90% utilized and Machine 3 being 10% utilized. Knowing this, the organization should aim to sell more of the products that are made on Machine 3, as it has a lot of open capacity to fill. It is important to note that manufacturers should not invest in any new capital if they have open capacity existing in the plant they need to fill.
Using costing models to inform sales decisions enables organizations to identify which products to focus on in both production and sales, ultimately boosting profits down the line. While it can be difficult to master these skills at first, manufacturers don’t need to go it alone. The Center’s experts are here to help Michigan manufacturers with any sales or costing challenges they might have. To learn more about how The Center can help you become more profitable and successful, visit www.the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERTS
George Singos
Business Leader Advisor

George Singos is the Business Leader Advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. He has accumulated more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in Business Development, Sales & Marketing Management, Project Planning, Quality Management, Costing and Scheduling. Prior to joining The Center, George worked in International Business Development, where his primary focus was growing International Sales in Europe and East Asia while supporting North American, South American and ASEAN operations.


Rob Stauffer
Senior Lean, Costing & Project Management Consultant

Rob Stauffer has been a Program Manager in The Center's Lean Business Solutions program for 10 years. He has trained and mentored Michigan companies in the entire portfolio of Lean Sigma strategies and methods specializing in financial analysis, costing, strategic planning and Lean applied to the healthcare industry. He also works with clients on product development, product launches, transactional office processes and sales of technical programs.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Open Wide! It’s Time for a Dose of MedAccred

By: Andy Nichols

The medical device industry is ill! According to the FDA’s medical device recall data, this year alone there have been 22 recalls, tarnishing thousands of medical products. Research also has shown that most of these recalls came from manufacturing-related defects, making this a critical issue for medical device manufacturers to tackle. Recalls like these are costing the industry between $1.3 and $5 billion each year and cause patients much frustration, time and pain. These defects are not like normal manufacturing defects as any mistake in production could lead to serious, and even life-threatening, issues for patients. Imagine having to replace a defective knee joint two or even three times!

Clearly, something must be done to improve the industry’s performance. A solution is now available through a recently launched accreditation program called MedAccred. Similar to traditional Quality Management Systems audits but much more focused in scope, MedAccred aims to eliminate defects at the source by improving manufacturing processes to ensure patient safety. A MedAccred “Critical Process Assessment” involves a deep dive on processes where normal, non-destructive inspection and testing cannot be used to determine quality. Currently, MedAccred offers accreditation programs for the following critical processes:
  • Cable & Wire Harness
  • Heat Treating
  • Plastics Extrusion
  • Plastics Injection Molding
  • Printed Circuit Board Assembly
  • Sterilization
  • Welding
  • Printed Boards
Creating the Cure
Organized by the Performance Review Institute (PRI), MedAccred closely mirrors the well-established NADCAP program used in the aerospace and defense manufacturing sector. Each program takes an in-depth look at processes to ultimately identify and eliminate sources of error in production. Evidence of the effectiveness of this method has already been seen in companies that achieved NADCAP accreditation. For example, in 2010 the DuPuy Synthes division of Johnson & Johnson observed a more consistent and higher quality result of heat treatment services from a supplier that held NADCAP accreditation. At about the same time, the FDA took an increased interest in the performance of medical device manufacturing quality and identified MedAccred as the ideal program approach to support.

Since then, Stryker, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Baxter and Philips Healthcare have joined Johnson & Johnson in flowing down the MedAccred requirements as part of their procurement criteria when awarding new/repeat business, making MedAccred accreditation essential for both minimizing defects and maintaining a competitive edge.

As the NADCAP experience has proven valuable, it is expected that the MedAccred program will make a substantial in-road to improving medical device quality. After all, we rarely hear of an aircraft falling from the sky, and modern jet engines are now so reliable that it is common for intercontinental aircraft to have only two engines, rather than the norm of four. With the importance of medical device quality reaching critical heights, manufacturers now can strive to achieve this same level of dependability and safety in products through MedAccred accreditation.

A Spoonful of Sugar
Unlike an ISO-type Management Systems audit, the MedAccred assessment is carried out using a highly detailed checklist and is performed by a Subject Matter Expert, fully familiar with the target process. Following a two-step procedure, the assessor first takes a look at the process documentation (organizations must be ISO 9001/ISO 13485 Certified as a prerequisite) then observes the actual practices on the manufacturing shop floor. During this observation, a number of employees are interviewed to gain a perspective on their knowledge of the process, its controls and likely defects. In addition, the controls on products supplied to the organizations, such as raw materials and components, are closely reviewed. The results of the assessment are then reported to a PRI technical committee for review/action.

Schedule Your Physical
Once an organization decides to pursue MedAccred accreditation, some preparation will be necessary. A Gap Assessment and Plan of Action is a good place to begin, and The Center can assist with this step. Our PRI-trained and MEP Certified SMEs are available to walk an organization through the complexities of the assessment checklist and help identify any areas that require work, advise as needed on closure of the gaps and perform the required internal assessment before the PRI assessor arrives.

With patient safety and future contracts at risk, the time is now to gain accreditation. For further details on how The Center’s SMEs can assist with preparing for MedAccred accreditation, visit the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Andy Nichols
Quality Program Manager

Andy has 40 years of expertise in a wide variety of roles and industries, with a focus on quality management systems in manufacturing organizations. In addition to his ISO 9000 Management Systems experience, he has worked extensively with ISO/TS16949, ISO/IEC 17024 and ISO/IEC 17025. His broad practical knowledge of ‘Quality Tools’ includes: SPC, FMEA, Quality Circles, Problem Solving, Internal Auditing and Process Mapping. He also has been an IRCA and RABQSA accredited Lead Auditor.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Keep Your Employees Engaged – Before It’s Too Late

By: Mike Beels

Although many don’t realize it, one of the most valuable assets a company can have is its personnel. The staff can make or break a business based on their level of commitment, motivation and interest in their work. While engaging employees already is a complicated skill to master, incoming generations of workers are bringing with them new expectations and desires for the workplace, making it even more difficult to keep all employees engaged.

In fact, the number of employees looking to leave their current job is higher among millennials, with 48% saying they will likely look for a new job in the next three months and 56% in the next 12 months.

Did I mention that the millennial workforce (those born between 1977 and 1995) makes up the largest portion of workers in America?

Worried yet?

Are you aware that 68% of American workers are disengaged, costing organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually?

How about now?

It is clear that the importance of keeping employees engaged has reached critical heights. If companies hope to maintain and grow their businesses into the future, the key is to ensure employees are engaged.

Although the majority of leaders agree that improving workforce engagement would improve their organization, only 25% have an engagement strategy. Do you?

First, let’s define engagement. Workforce engagement can be interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. It is a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. Engagement is something the employee has to offer the employer. It cannot be taught or required, but rather must be inspired.

Engagement is not just about keeping employees happy. To be frank, many employees have no problem with sleepwalking through the workday, putting only time – but no passion or interest – into their work. They embody what Jack Welch, author and previous CEO of General Electric, said many years ago, essentially stating, “Never mistake activity for accomplishment.”

The goal with engagement is to go beyond task completion, inspiring employees to feel passionate about their work and motivated to perform their best. This requires creating an environment that prioritizes communication, promotes empowerment and offers opportunity for growth. Our surveys conducted among manufacturers consistently tell us that employees are looking for respect, accountability, trust, opportunity, communication and transparency within the workplace. They want to be cared for and listened to. They want management to believe in them, then they will be encouraged to help the company succeed.

This engagement “strategy” starts with leadership. They must support engagement, and not just by saying they do. They must play an active role and provide the resources and budget to make it happen. This is one of the most important investments a company can make in their business, as it will benefit the organization down the line when employees reach higher levels of engagement, efficiency and productivity than ever before.

Heed this warning: You must set your company apart and promote employee engagement or else the competition could steal your most valuable employees. This is especially critical with the talent shortage now facing the industry, making it increasingly difficult to find skilled workers to fill positions. Now is the time to show your employees they are valued and give them the leadership they deserve, before they decide to look for it elsewhere.

Learn more strategies for keeping employees engaged at our upcoming free event on November 6th in Plymouth.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Mike Beels
Lean Program Manager

Mike Beels has served in the role of Lean Program Manager for the Lean Business Solutions Team at The Center for more than 12 years. Mike’s areas of expertise include Change Leadership, Workforce Engagement and Succession Planning, as well as the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methodologies. He is a professional trainer and has the ability to command an audience and deliver the training message in a way that participants can understand in a clear, non-threatening manner. Mike always leaves trainees excited and ready to complete training transfer to the shop floor or office. 



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, October 19, 2018

5 Steps to Cyber Safety: IT Perspective

By: Jeff Williams

We recently posted a blog detailing how business leaders could safeguard their companies from cyber-attacks. This week, we will focus on IT-related steps to help ensure your business is protected from cyber-attacks.
  1. Make sure your systems are up to date. While the world of ever-evolving technology may make lives easier and more efficient, it also can leave individuals and businesses at greater risk of issues due to outdated software. New threats and problems in software are identified daily, and it is critical that these points of access are removed. Unfortunately, the older the system, the more difficult this can be. An effective method to ensure older systems stay protected is to make sure your systems are still being patched, and actually apply these patches.
  2. Encrypt data during transport/storage. One of the easiest ways to protect information is through encryption. By encrypting data, information will not be usable to hackers even if it is stolen, effectively preventing unwanted issues when your data is “at rest” (or being stored). Additionally, in this age of portable media, taking information outside of your office is easier than ever. Making sure that mobile devices do not contain key information in accessible formats can make the difference between losing our property and safeguarding it.
  3. Establish company-wide password policies. While it may seem like a minor detail, the importance of password strength cannot be overlooked. Regulations on password length, expiration time-frames and password sharing must be followed by all workers throughout an organization to keep sensitive information safe. It could be beneficial to consider adopting Two-Factor Authentication as well to provide an extra layer of defense to company passwords.
  4. Back up critical data using a secure method. Having data backed up in a secure method is a must for any company, but one step that is often overlooked is to validate that the backed-up information can be restored. Just like any other item you have, back-up media can lose efficiency and reliability over time, and often you cannot be sure if it is successfully backed up. Taking the time to simulate a recovery situation is essential to confirm that not only the information is safely stored, but it can be accessed if needed.
  5. Strengthen your wifi policies. Wifi is everywhere these days – in our homes, in our favorite coffee shop and even on airplanes. But while it is something that is easy to access and use, unfortunately many times it also can be very insecure. Through ensuring your wireless communications are secure with encryption and limited by passwords, you can eliminate the possibility of unwanted individuals accessing your data through wifi. However, due to how readily available wifi often is, many times it is expected that businesses will provide wifi to guests. By separating your internal users and guest users via “guest networks,” you can remove the possibility of outsiders obtaining information they should not have.
Establishing safe cyber practices is the best decision for your company, data and employees as business becomes increasingly intertwined with technology, and cyber-attacks become increasingly sophisticated. With these steps in place, combined with business leaders’ efforts to protect information, your company will be set up for cyber success.

Learn more about how The Center can help protect your information here or contact cyber@the-center.org.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Jeff Williams
Program Manager, Cybersecurity

Jeff Williams is a Program Manager for The Center’s cybersecurity team, leading our efforts to educate and equip small and medium-sized manufacturers to guard against the growing threat of cyber-attacks. One of his main areas of focus relates to the cybersecurity requirements outlined in NIST Special Publication 800-171, designed to protect the information security systems of contractors working with the Department of Defense. In addition to serving Michigan’s manufacturing community, Jeff also is involved with training other Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers across the U.S. This effort will enable those centers to provide cybersecurity services to manufacturers in their states.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Leveraging Technology to Grow Your Business

By: Chuck Werner

In past posts, we’ve talked about the relevance and applications of implementing technology, highlighting the advantages that such innovations can bring to manufacturers of all sizes. But what does it actually look like when these technologies are leveraged to improve a business? For a more detailed picture, let’s take a quick walk through the stages of business maturity.

There are several different maturity models for business development, but the one we will use is outlined below:
Some say the journey is the most important part, but having a destination is the only way to know when you “get there.” For the purpose of this blog, let’s propose that the goal of an organization is to achieve autonomous manufacturing. This is an environment of flexibility within the business. While this flexibility can manifest itself in different ways, it can be fundamentally defined as the ability to have real-time identification and reaction to variation in a product, process or service. In an autonomous environment these deviations would be detected and responded to (correctly) by the appropriate (lowest possible) level of the organization. 

How can an organization reach this level of flexibility and autonomy? As seen in the figure above, a business starts out as a reactive organization, where a centralized group of decision-makers attempt to resolve issues with little to no advanced warning in a ritual we affectionately call “firefighting.”  To escape the constant chaos of their reactionary existence, the organization takes specific steps to improve their management to the cognitive level. The introduction of metrics and measurements provides the first clear glimpse of performance, allowing workers to locate sources of variation. Standard systems and procedures are then put in place and serve to stabilize the environment, as well as enable the business to operate in a preventive manner. Soon it becomes obvious which issues are resulting in poor performance. Reaction plans are implemented to ensure effective and timely responses to minimize the impact of variation. Additionally, focused projects are improved to empower the organization to predict situations that cause variation. Now a predictive organization, the business begins to foresee these situations and is able to identify and implement improvements in processes, products and services to eliminate occurrences of variation. Each step moves the process closer to the desired level of flexibility until the organization performs more like an organism, with each part reacting autonomously to support the well-being of the whole. 

Technology Can Help You “Get There”
Taking a business from its original form and guiding it to become a learning organization is a challenge.  A lot of heavy lifting can be involved and, quite frankly, many people are so tied up in day-to-day operations that trying to find the time and information to work on the business can be difficult. Unless a company is blessed with a “people closet” to supply additional support, the efforts may fall short in either resource or priority, causing the improvement initiatives to fail. To combat this challenge, leveraging technology can reduce the resource drain on the leadership team and result in improvements that are not only realized faster, but are easier to sustain and build on in the future. Let’s consider the benefits of using technology to assist in each level of business maturation:
Beginning in the reactive phase, an organization “does not know what they do not know,” meaning they are unaware of how their business is really performing. In order to progress and improve their operations, they must begin gathering data to gain more insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their current practices. However, asking people who are already task-saturated to fill out additional paperwork is never a popular move – and it doesn’t stop there. That paperwork also must be collected, tracked, compiled, reported and shared before it can even be considered. This additional demand on resources can result in failures to collect data as well as delays in receiving it. Using sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), the data collection process can be automated so that additional burden is not placed on team members. And, rather than keeping file cabinet after file cabinet of stored sheets, the data can be saved electronically on-site or in the cloud in a secure manner.

But, as has been noted many times by many people, data is just data until it is actually analyzed and turned into information. It is only then that the organization “knows what they don’t know,” growing in maturity in the process. They also learn that there are pockets of information existing which should be available to a larger number of team members. Using dashboards to provide real-time information and system integration, a greater number of resources can be used to understand the information and identify ways to prevent, and eventually predict, when a negative or unusual outcome is about to occur. Since the Big Data generates itself, the body of information available will be much larger and more accurate than previously. As the team begins to identify Key Input Variables (also known as leading indicators), they can use the integrated systems and dashboards to communicate the likelihood of issues before they occur, effectively operating as a predictive organization, allowing the team enough time to take appropriate actions. Again, technology enables the team to achieve more with the resources they have, rather than asking more of already-taxed resources.

Once the organization has reached the point of trying to optimize business practices and begins looking at ways to design all variation and waste out of their products, processes and services, technology should again be considered. Ask yourself, for example, if inspection failures are an issue, can the process be automated through cobotics/robotics to ensure 100% performance of the task or to reduce measurement inaccuracies? Can augmented reality be used to provide relevant data in real time or to assist team members in achieving a higher level of training? Through simulation and virtualization, can failure modes be better predicted and then eliminated? And finally, could your product be better made using additive technologies rather than subtractive? Leveraging technology at this level to support product, workforce and process improvements can ultimately help a company achieve and maintain autonomous manufacturing.

Manufacturers often are intimidated by technological implementations due to the high costs, time and labor they assume they will have to invest. But, if effectively applied, technology can help team members achieve a new level of efficiency through the delivery of real-time information. This allows them not only the flexibility to respond to (and capitalize on) situations, but also provides them with time to focus on ways to improve practices and work autonomously.

The Center is here to guide manufacturers through their technological implementations in a way that makes sense for their businesses. From an initial assessment to identifying and applying relevant technologies, we can assist. To learn more about how we can support your company’s Industry 4.0 journey, contact us at inquiry@the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Chuck Werner
Lean Program Manager

Chuck has been a Lean Program Manager at The Center since 2016. His areas of expertise are in Lean, Six Sigma and Quality. Chuck has devoted many years to practicing Six Sigma methods, ultimately earning a Six Sigma Master Black Belt in 2011. He is passionate about helping small and medium-sized manufacturers become more prosperous using a variety of tools and methods gathered from over 27 years of experience. Additionally, Chuck is a certified ISO/QS9000 Lead Assessor, Training Within Industry (TWI) Master Trainer and is certified in OSHA Compliance and Accident Reduction.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.


Friday, October 5, 2018

5 Steps to Cyber Safety: Business Perspective

By: Jeff Williams

The number of cybercrime victims grows by 2.7 million every day, or 1,861 victims a minute. The total global cost of cyber-attacks in 2018 so far exceeds $600 billion, with organizations spending $8 billion a year on ransomware alone. It is clear that the risk of cybersecurity continues to grow, with a variety of agencies from the Department of Defense to the Automotive Industry Action Group mandating new industry-wide standards for cybersecurity. As businesses of all types and sizes are vulnerable to these attacks, the time is now to establish safe cyber practices to ensure companies can operate securely in the increasingly technology-dependent business landscape.

As seen in the infographic here, cyber-attacks can have devastating impacts on companies – especially smaller businesses. While the risk of cybersecurity is clear, the ways to avoid such catastrophe are not as obvious. Fortunately, there are ways that leaders of organizations can effectively manage risk associated with cyber threats through safer business practices, including:
  1. Know your information. Everyone has something worth protecting, even if you don’t always realize it. Such valuable information could vary anywhere from technical drawings to specific intellectual property to key marketing campaigns. The first step to protecting this information is to actually know what it is and what its loss could mean for your organization.
  1. Understand how the information is used and who can access it. Once we know what information we want to protect, the next item we need to understand is why we have this information and what it is used for. Historically, many companies operated based on the concept of “you can never have too much information,” holding on to old documents and data in case it is needed at some point in the future. While that might have worked in the past, the idea of “keeping everything” should remain there – in the past. We now live in a time where every bit of information we have could potentially be used (or stolen) by others. The best, most effective way to protect something is to simply not have it. This is especially true in light of recent restrictions and requirements placed on the handling and storage of personal information. Start by asking yourself, “Do I really need this information?” If the information is truly something you need to have within your company, as business owners and decision makers you then need to take a hard look at who has access to this information. Consider the following questions:
·         Do I know who has access to the information I deem worthy of protecting?
·         Is this information stored in an area that all employees can access simply?
·         Do all current employees with access actually need access as part of their job, or is it as a side effect of our current business practices?
  1. Document company and system policies. While it is important to document all company policies and procedures, it is equally as important to ensure all team members are aware of the policies. For example, if one of your policies prohibits sending emails with specific types of documents, yet this information is not known throughout the company, how can you be sure that employees are not breaking this rule? If employees do not know what information you are trying to protect, and what practices you have in place to protect it, they will be unable to prevent breaches from happening or notice once a breach has occurred.
  1. Create an Incident Response Plan. In the world of information security, it’s not a question of if a breach will happen, but when. Preparing your company for the worst is essential, and it is best to complete these preparations before an incident occurs. Ask yourself this: If you were to be attacked by ransomware, would you know how to recover your data without paying the ransom? Or: If you were asked to show the extent of damage a breach created, would you be able to? Who do you need to notify if a breach occurs? What steps do you need to take to reduce further damage? These are all questions that would be answered in an Incident Response Plan.
  1. Audit your policies periodically and update as needed. Business changes every day. This also is true for cyber criminals and the methods they use to attack. Tactics and policies that work to prevent attacks today might not work tomorrow. Additionally, changes within the organization might call for new or updated cyber practices. Perhaps you take on a new business venture that has additional information in need of protection. Perhaps you replace your infrastructure or bring on new staff or equipment. Without reviewing your policies periodically, there is no way of knowing if they are still adequately protecting your information.
While it may be impossible to completely eliminate risk associated with cyber-attacks, business leaders who follow these steps to establish safer practices and policies within their organization stand a better chance of avoiding disaster down the line.
To gain additional insights about cybersecurity, be sure to read our upcoming blog, which will outline IT-related steps to safeguard your company from cyber threats.
Learn more about how The Center can help protect your information here or contact cyber@the-center.org

MEET OUR EXPERT
Jeff Williams
Program Manager, Cybersecurity

Jeff Williams is a Program Manager for The Center’s cybersecurity team, leading our efforts to educate and equip small and medium-sized manufacturers to guard against the growing threat of cyber-attacks. One of his main areas of focus relates to the cybersecurity requirements outlined in NIST Special Publication 800-171, designed to protect the information security systems of contractors working with the Department of Defense. In addition to serving Michigan’s manufacturing community, Jeff also is involved with training other Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers across the U.S. This effort will enable those centers to provide cybersecurity services to manufacturers in their states.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Making Management Reviews Beneficial - Are We There Yet?

By: Andy Nichols

If you are registered to ISO 9001:2015 or one of the quality management requirements built on the international standard, like IATF 16949 or AS9100D, your management must comply with the requirements of the “Management Review” clause 9.3. When complying with this requirement, commonly asked questions include how often and when to do the review. A quick look at the inputs and outputs of the review process doesn’t provide much of a clue to an organization since there is no clearly stated requirement to review those things at any specific time. Fortunately, some guidance can be found in understanding a great American past-time – the road trip!

Frequently the need to comply with this ISO 9001-based requirement is seen only as a way to do what is necessary, without understanding what benefit the activity brings to the organization. In many ways, it’s like the drive to work each day: you have to do it, you don’t have much control over the road conditions or what other drivers do, how long it takes, etc. It’s something you’re forced to endure, and as drivers we often “switch off” or become distracted. We essentially function in “auto pilot,” not investing interest in what we are doing or paying attention to what is happening in front of us. In performing a management review this way, without carefully analyzing the process at each step, your company can miss out on some of the benefits such a review could bring.

This leads us to the question: What is the benefit of an effective review, performed by management, of the Quality Management System?

Answer: To get a balanced view of the “road trip” to ensure all involved are getting the most out of it.

Anyone who has filled a car with people (think Process Owners) and driven any distance will know that although there’s one primary objective - to complete the journey - everyone may have their own specific objectives. These individual objectives may, however, contradict others. For example, the driver has the main objective in mind, but also the objective to obey the posted speed limits. The journey also may call for extra fuel stops because a big vehicle was needed to accommodate everyone. This, in turn, might conflict with others’ objective(s) of meeting their destination in the quickest possible time. Some might have the objective of making the journey as informative as possible, and their sightseeing may conflict with keeping the journey to the shortest time/distance. Of course, a budget has to be established too, which will have to take these competing interests into account.

As with many things in life, compromises must be made in business. Satisfying customers’ needs, complying with regulations, improving efficiency, reducing costs, retaining employees, keeping tabs on key suppliers and so on, all must be balanced in strategic decision making.

If we apply the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle to our road trip, ensuring we plan, understand and accommodate each rider’s requirements for the road trip and set clear objectives and measurables at the outset of the journey, there’s a better chance of meeting all desires of passengers along the way. Waiting until the journey is over to conduct a review of passengers and their objectives might be too late to ensure their needs are met. For example, they all made it to their destination, the driver wasn’t pulled over by the police, riders were comfortable. Some wanted mid-afternoon snacks, but most of the money was spent on lunch and fuel. No money or time was made available for sightseeing.

In the same way, although performing one review of the management system per year may not attract a non-conformity from a Certification Body, in reality it’s not going to be effective from the Process Owners’ points of view. Instead, by performing reviews of the progress being made by each Process Owner at some regularly scheduled event, like refueling or food breaks, adjustments can be made in the moment and everyone has a better chance of meeting their objectives.

If your organization finds it is doing their management reviews just to comply with ISO 9001 requirements, there’s a good chance you have yet to realize the benefits these reviews could bring to your business. Instead of performing annual, rushed reviews simply because “ISO-says-so,” work towards establishing regular reviews to ensure all parties are consistently satisfied and your Quality Management System is running smoothly. With this in place, no one will ever have to ask, “Are we there yet?” again.

For help with understanding how an effective Management Review Process can be established, contact us at inquiry@the-center.org or call 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Andy Nichols
Quality Program Manager

Andy has 40 years of expertise in a wide variety of roles and industries, with a focus on quality management systems in manufacturing organizations. In addition to his ISO 9000 Management Systems experience, he has worked extensively with ISO/TS16949, ISO/IEC 17024 and ISO/IEC 17025. His broad practical knowledge of ‘Quality Tools’ includes: SPC, FMEA, Quality Circles, Problem Solving, Internal Auditing and Process Mapping. He also has been an IRCA and RABQSA accredited Lead Auditor.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.


Friday, September 21, 2018

The Pros of Going PRO: How the New & Improved STTF Can Help Employers Develop & Retain the Talent They Need


Since 2013 the Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) has provided nearly $73 million in funding for training and apprenticeships. Starting this fall, another $29 million will be available for businesses throughout Michigan through the Going PRO Talent Fund, the new face of STTF. Although its name has changed, Going PRO is still as big and powerful as ever, helping to drive Michigan’s economy and provide manufacturers with the talent they need to compete and grow.

Created by Michigan Works!, an established partner in developing our state’s economic future, Going PRO provides competitive funding to employers to assist in training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees. Through a collaborative statewide network of workforce and employee skill development partners, this program supports employer responsive training and enhances talent, productivity and employment retention while increasing the quality and competitiveness of Michigan’s businesses. The type of training this funding can be used for must be short-term and fill a demonstrated talent need experienced by the employer, with past examples including anything from welding to robotics to CNC programming to on-the-job training.

Any Michigan employer with a need for skill enhancement, including apprenticeship programs and advance-tech training programs, may be eligible to apply for funding. To begin the application process, companies must first contact their local Michigan Works! office to assess their talent skill gaps and determine if Going PRO funding would be an appropriate solution. Once this has been decided, they will work together to develop the necessary training plan, identify and document the number of individuals to be trained and find all available funding and resources to be used. To get in touch with your local Michigan Works! office, or to learn more about the services this program provides, visit http://www.michiganworks.org/.

How Michigan Works! Can Work for You
Manufacturers hoping to enhance the skills of their workers can find support through Going PRO. Through this program, employers can work with Michigan Works! to get the training they need to ultimately eliminate gaps in talent at their facility. Going PRO provides more than just funding, as it also provides employers with loyal, ever-developing talent devoted to growing with the company. Through this service, Going PRO can help manufacturers retain and develop the talent they need to thrive, right at home.

Applications for FY 2019 funding are due October 3, 2018. To get assistance with the application process, or to learn about our Going PRO-funded training options, contact The Center at 888.414.6682 or inquiry@the-center.org.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Get a Peek into the Factory of the Future at Integr8

By: Elliot Forsyth

Manufacturing is changing. The industry is entering a new era, with oncoming workforce and technological advancements set to transform manufacturing as we know it. In this emerging age of smart manufacturing, a number of factors are contributing to this evolution:
  • Workforce changes. Out with baby boomers, in with millennials and Generation Z. The manufacturing landscape is facing a drastic shift in the type of talent available and interests of oncoming generations, which will inevitably lead to changes in manufacturing operations and capabilities. The influx of younger workers on the factory floor is expected to increase technology use in production, both to draw in these tech-savvy generations and to boost companies’ efficiencies and competitive edges in the evolving industry.
  • New technological and data applications. Several emerging technological innovations that fall under the Industry 4.0 umbrella, including additive manufacturing, robotics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), are being increasingly adopted by manufacturers across the nation. With this rise in technology use comes a related rise in the use of data and analytics to inform and power operations to achieve higher levels of efficiency than previously thought possible. Manufacturers who choose to adopt such innovations and use them to their full potential can realize new growth, emerge into different markets, grow from reactive to predictive in maintenance practices and maintain a safer and more efficient atmosphere.
  • Increased importance of cybersecurity. Following this use of technology, risks associated with cybersecurity have skyrocketed. Manufacturing is now a top five target for cyber-attacks, with 43% of attacks targeting small businesses. This level of danger will only continue to grow as production becomes increasingly dependent on technology. This is not a reason to avoid technological innovations, however, but rather a reason to prioritize establishing safe cyber practices within your company. This will ensure your company can continue advancing with the industry, while staying protected.
While these aspects have been largely discussed in articles and blog posts, many manufacturers are still left wondering what these innovations look like in reality and how their business can effectively navigate these changes. Manufacturers interested in keeping up with the changing industry landscape can get a first-hand look at these topics and more at Integr8, an annual event focused on advancing smart manufacturing presented by Automation Alley. Through keynote presentations, panel discussions, hands-on technology demonstrations and breakout sessions, attendees gain the opportunity to experience and learn more about these innovations they’ve otherwise only heard about.

Held on November 14th in Detroit, this one-day event provides manufacturers with the insights and confidence necessary to implement new technological innovations and adapt with oncoming industry transformations. To get a front row seat to the factory of the future, register for Integr8 here. Be sure to use our code “TheCenter” for a discounted price.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Let the Countdown Begin: Celebrate Manufacturing Day on October 5th!

By: Brian Mamo

Manufacturing Day answers the question: what does it mean to be a manufacturer? If you were to ask 20 people this question, you would get 20 different answers. This is because of not only the lack of awareness of the manufacturing industry, but also the ever-changing nature of manufacturing itself. These two aspects combined make it difficult for the layperson to really grasp what it means to be a manufacturer, resulting in misperceptions and negative views of the industry.

Manufacturing Day was created in 2012 in an effort to close the gap between what people think manufacturing is and what it actually is. Now an officially observed holiday, this nation-wide celebration of manufacturing continues to gain awareness and participants each year, with Michigan leading the effort in recent years with 211 events in 2016 and 272 events in 2017.

The driving force behind Manufacturing Day is to celebrate modern manufacturing and continue to advance the industry through the following efforts:
  • Change perceptions about manufacturing. Due to outdated and incorrect views of the industry, parents and students have the wrong idea of what manufacturing really is. While many may circulate the idea that manufacturing is dark, dirty and dangerous, this is no longer the case. Factories are now more safe and organized than ever, with strong safety regulations and updated equipment helping to make manufacturing one of the most viable career options on the market today.
  • Increase awareness of manufacturing career options available. Another misperception about manufacturing is that jobs offer low pay and are not competitive. Companies engaged in Manufacturing Day events work to go against this misunderstanding and instead show participants exactly how rewarding careers in manufacturing can be, through both quality of work and pay. This work has proven to be effective as those who attend Manufacturing Day events are 84% more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding, as seen in the infographic below.
  • Celebrate what manufacturers do every day. Aside from the serious motivating factors behind Manufacturing Day, the main goal is to celebrate. It’s a chance for manufacturers around the U.S. to open their doors to the public and show them what they do every day. In doing so, manufacturers and attendees alike are able to celebrate the role manufacturing plays in our economy and its significant impact on our everyday lives.

This year, Manufacturing Day officially falls on Friday, October 5th, although manufacturers are free to celebrate any day they choose, or even opt for Manufacturing Week or Manufacturing Month.  If you’re looking to connect with future generations, begin addressing the skills gap and present a new image of manufacturing to the world, consider hosting your own Manufacturing Day event!

Need Help Getting Started?
Follow these three steps to ensure your Manufacturing Day event is a success:
  1. Decide what type of event you’ll host. From plant tours to expos to career fairs, thousands of manufacturers host unique events each year. Choose which is best for you and your facility.
  2. Register your event online. Visit the Manufacturing Day website (www.mfgday.com) to make your event official and get the word out about your special celebration. You can choose which day to hold your event, and whether to make it public or keep it private. 
  3. Use the event toolkit for extra help. Want to make sure your event draws in the right crowd? The Manufacturing Day toolkit will give you all the advice and resources you need to make sure your event is effective.
The future of manufacturing is up to you. Make this the year you join in the Manufacturing Day celebration and show everyone what it really means to be a manufacturer, and help keep Michigan #1 in the nation.

For extra assistance with your event planning, contact The Center at inquiry@the-center.org.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Brian Mamo
Senior Business Solutions Manager

Brian Mamo is a Senior Business Solutions Manager at The Center. In his role, Brian works directly with manufacturers in Macomb County, providing services and support that enable them to compete, grow and prosper. Brian has more than 25 years of experience as a trusted advisor to hundreds of clients in several industries including the manufacturing, industrial, medical and service industries. Prior to joining The Center, Brian spent the past seven years as Director of Business Development and member of the Executive Team of a facility maintenance company. In addition to managing the sales team, Brian worked to redesign the company’s sales and marketing plan while streamlining the sales and operations delivery process.




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Strong Leadership: The Key to Shaping Millennials into Manufacturers

By: Jamie Headley

Employers across America are dealing with the combined effect of baby boomers retiring, a strong economy and record low unemployment. Now faced with the large labor shortage this perfect storm has created, manufacturers are looking to the next generation of workers to fill this gap: millennials.

When I talk with executives about their feelings toward the emerging workforce, some common grievances I hear include: “They don’t want to work” or “They want to be promoted every 10 minutes” or “All they want to do is play on their phones.” The resounding message is that today’s hiring managers do not see this group of workers as the answer to their needs. The fact is, millennials are the present and future workforce of this country.  So how can we bridge this gap?

First, let’s stop playing the blame game.  The term “millennial,” which is meant to simply refer to someone born between the years of 1980 and 2000, now carries with it negative connotations of being lazy and entitled. However, we all know plenty of people in their forties and fifties who act entitled and demonstrate less than stellar work ethics. We also know plenty of people in their twenties who want to work hard to establish a career. Yes, this generation may have different priorities than prior ones, but isn’t that always the case?

Secondly, let’s keep in mind some typical characteristics shared by people of this young age:

Maturity – New hires entering the workforce after high school or college are immature. This is not an insult, it is just a biological fact.  The human brain does not fully develop until the mid to late twenties. Particularly the frontal lobe, which is responsible for attention, tasks, planning, motivation, understanding future consequences of current actions and modifying emotional responses into socially acceptable reactions. Employers need to be aware of this and work to communicate with young employees regarding expectations and consequences.

Job Experience – Our perception of life is deeply based on our experiences. Many people entering the workforce have little or no experience in a full-time job role, so they may struggle, feel lost or fear failure when first getting a “real job,” thus wanting to quit.

Financial Knowledge – It can be difficult to really understand the value of money until you have to support yourself. Fiscal understanding is a big part of what motivates people to come to work everyday. When you are in your twenties, having little or no money is common. Living at home , eating ramen noodles and driving a beater of a car are all typical experiences of being young. For many, as we mature our desire for a more financially stable life grows. The value we put on money then evolves and, in turn, our attitude toward work changes.

Life Wisdom – When I graduated college, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I thought I knew it all. Life had not humbled me yet. I suspect young adults today are not much different, so it is not surprising  they want to move up the corporate food chain faster than may be realistic.

These are traits that are not necessarily specific to millennials, but are typical of most people as they enter adulthood.  My guess is that if we took an honest look back at how we were during that period in our lives, we would discover we weren’t much different.

Enlightening as this may be, how does this help our labor issue?

It all comes down to leadership. Good leadership is timeless.  From Alexander the Great to Alan Mulally (CEO, Ford Motor Company), people who provide great leadership achieve great results even in difficult situations – regardless of generation or age.

All great leaders have a few things in common that contribute to their effectiveness. They set a vision, develop a strategy to achieve that vision, communicate the strategy to workers, empower and motivate their team and execute tactical measures only if they are in support of the overall vision. Companies with engaging cultures and low turnover also have the following in common:
  • Hiring/Onboarding/Training process – Hire the right people and help them acclimate, succeed and grow.
  • Succession plans – Identify career paths for moving up in the organization as workers develop.
  • Employee feedback process – Ask workers why they stay, why they leave, what they need, etc.
  • Leadership training – Establish continual learning from the top down.
  • Commitment to being the workplace of choice – Maintain a focus on being the best workplace you can be.
Implementing the above can be an undertaking. It is often an investment of time, energy and money, but it is an investment that will pay dividends as employees gain a new understanding of personal responsibility and loyalty, while supporting your company’s vision. Instead of focusing on the differences between your workplace generations, focus on how to bridge these gaps to successfully nurture and lead employees of all ages.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Jamie Headley
Senior Business Solutions Manager

As Senior Business Solutions Manager, Jamie works as an advisor to Michigan manufacturers in the Southwest region of the state, helping them to “manufacture smarter.”  Jamie is a seasoned operations professional with expertise in change management, strategic planning, leadership, process improvement, lean implementations, cost containment and operational excellence. With more than 25 years of manufacturing and consulting experience, Jamie has served as Director of Supply Chain for Catalent Pharma Solutions, Vice President of Operations for Art.com and President and CEO of Dementia Services Group.  




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Is Your Business Performing as Well as It Could Be?

By: George Singos

We recently posted a blog about the importance of cascading policy deployment in achieving
business visions. While this company-wide alignment is essential to realizing strategic goals, progress cannot be made without maintaining a strong sense of how well the business is performing. This is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come into play. By establishing, monitoring and analyzing KPIs, such as on-time delivery, changeover time or schedule bumping, companies will be equipped with the data and guidance necessary to align their business toward success.

However, looking at internal KPIs without knowing where your company stands within the market can make it difficult to fully comprehend how well your business is operating. To help manufacturers compare their KPIs with those of like companies, The Center developed the Transformation Planner. This assessment tool gathers data about an organization’s operations through nine KPIs to assess a company’s effectiveness. By using this assessment, companies will determine:
  • Where does your company stand? All data is compared against The Center’s growing database of relevant, related companies. In doing so, businesses can discover how well their KPIs stack up against peers.
  • What areas need improving? In analyzing these KPIs, companies can identify which metrics fall short of reaching goals. Once these areas have been identified, a deployment plan for improvement can be created.
Most manufacturers probably think they are already performing as effectively as possible. However, making even small changes to improve a few KPIs can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. For example, let’s look at how Acme Corporation tackled four of their problem areas to realize massive improvements.

Acme’s journey began by completing the Transformation Planner with their company’s current business information. From there, The Center’s experts worked to identify which metrics were weaker than peers’ values, essentially identifying which areas to improve. As seen below, this data was put into a table to compare current values with targeted values for each of the nine performance metrics measured, including both Acme’s values as well as placement among similar companies.




By evaluating these numbers, four significant areas of improvement were identified – Inventory Turns, Run as a % of Available, Scrap and Rework and Schedule Bumping – to boost Acme’s profitability and get their operations on track for success.
  1. Inventory Turns. This serves as a fundamental measure of lean performance and ability to convert expense into billings. A high Inventory Turns value often signifies a nimble company – one able to respond quickly to changes in demand. Low turns may result from excessive raw, finished or in-process inventory stocks. By identifying this as a weak point in Acme’s operations and increasing their Inventory Turns value from 7 to 8.5, a seemingly small improvement, Acme was able to gain an additional $26,470.59 each year, with $176,470.59 of cash not in Inventory. 
  2. Run as a % of Available. The best measure of your equipment utilization is how many hours your processing lines or systems run in a year. Once the appropriate level of run time is determined, the actual number of hours running must be evaluated. The goal is to attack the drivers of downtime, including long or unnecessary changeovers, unreliable supplier delivery, poor housekeeping and materials management, inadequate preventive maintenance and poor breakdown prediction. For Acme, achieving a 10% increase in Run as a % of Available boosted their competitiveness by more than 30% as well as earned them an additional $274,126.46 annually.
  3. Scrap and Rework. Scrap is waste from errors in the manufacturing process, composed of both lost labor and loss of materials that cannot be salvaged. Scrap directly decreases profitability due to the loss of time and materials. The requirement to run more product to compensate for scrap has a rippling effect on on-time delivery, making current and subsequent jobs late. Rework is an expense of labor that can occur before or after a product ships, which involves modifying a product to get it to conform to customer specifications. By decreasing their Scrap and Rework value from 1.5% to 0.75%, Acme increased competitiveness by 20% and achieved an annual benefit of $52,500. 
  4. Schedule Bumping. Interrupting a scheduled job often results in lost equipment run time, additional labor cost and poor delivery performance. Not only can "bumping" the scheduled job result in at least one extra changeover, but it also leads to more idle time and overtime pay for operators as well as increased charges for premium freight. Through targeting a 5% decrease in  Schedule Bumping, Acme gained an additional $38,201.92 annually and boosted their competitiveness by nearly 30%.
As seen with Acme’s success, by identifying and tracking your company’s areas of weakness and making even small adjustments to operations, your business can realize significant benefits both immediately and down the line. No matter how well your business may be running now, there is always room for improvement.

To learn more about how the Transformation Planner can transform your business, click here or contact The Center at 888.414.6682.


MEET OUR EXPERT
George Singos
Business Leader Advisor

George Singos is the Business Leader Advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. He has accumulated more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in Business Development, Sales & Marketing Management, Project Planning, Quality Management, Costing and Scheduling. Prior to joining The Center, George worked in International Business Development, where his primary focus was growing International Sales in Europe and East Asia while supporting North American, South American and ASEAN operations.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Not All Food Failures Are Hazardous, but All Are Costly

By: John Spillson

The idea of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) was formally introduced to the world by the military shortly after WWII. Due to failures in munitions during the campaign, this methodology was developed to identify and eliminate critical defects in production. In the 1950s, FMEAs began to be applied in aerospace and rocket development to achieve high levels of quality and safety. Another significant push for failure prevention came in the 1960s with the increase in space exploration as countries around the world raced to put a man on the moon. Ford Motor Company first introduced the FMEA process to the automotive world in the late 1970s for safety and regulatory consideration, likely in response to the rupturing fuel tanks in the Ford Pinto. Now, in modern-day manufacturing, FMEAs are quite commonly used.

Everything we do as manufacturers, and food processors, can be described as a process.  FMEAs help identify what can go wrong within a process as you create, make or assemble your product. Although this is often associated with a manufacturing process, it can be applied to any process (which involves inputs being turned into outputs). FMEAs are used to analyze possible failures or risks, along with the potential severity, chance of occurrence and detection rate of each risk.

FSMA ≠ FMEA
However, food processors already follow food safety laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Wouldn’t an FMEA cover what’s already mandated through these regulations, making it redundant and unnecessary? Not really. While the FSMA functions to prevent hazards with serious health consequences associated with them, an FMEA works to prevent potential failures or defects that don’t just involve health hazards, but failures in quality as well.  This means it is beneficial to use both the FSMA and an FMEA together to prevent the most risks possible and produce quality products.

Quality is much more than producing safe food. There are many instances where this is evident in the food industry, including:
  • a salad served with too much dressing
  • pizza prepared with too little sauce or toppings
  • a muffin that’s slightly overcooked or dry
  • potato chips that aren’t evenly seasoned
  • a resealable bag that doesn’t seem to reseal
All are examples of products that can be viewed as failures, defects or essentially non-quality.  The cost of quality is often considered, but the cost of non-quality should never be overlooked. This is especially true in an era when instant gratification and social media are so prevalent, making it possible for a disappointing product to be quickly broadcast to the world, damaging both your company’s reputation and sales.

Where does an FMEA fit into all this? The focus of an FMEA is to consider, identify and prevent any potential defects or failures. Scrap, rework and dissatisfied customers all come with a cost. Having to discard inferior goods, remake products or make employees work overtime to redo orders only amplifies the impact. Identifying defects or risks in the planning process – before they become an issue – could yield enormous benefits down the line.

To get the most out of performing an FMEA, follow these three steps:
  1.  Do the FMEA.
    • Identify each step in your process and for each ask the question, "What can go wrong?" This would be your Failure Mode.
    • For each identified Failure Mode, determine the type and severity of potential consequences. This would be the Effects. Be sure to look at the potential cause of the Failure Mode to determine how to prevent it from occurring.
    • Look at how the Failure Mode could be detected so it won't reach the consumer, or even the next step in the process. Although you may not be able to control how bad the effect would be, you will likely be able to lessen the likelihood of it happening or make it easier to detect.
  2. Determine what you need to do differently to keep a failure from occurring. Realize that all things affect all things by understanding the correlations between operations.
  3. Implement corrective actions. This involves incorporating continuous improvement steps, increasing training and error-proofing your processes.

Romaine Recall: Prevent Disaster with an FMEA
Recently, contaminated romaine lettuce left experts baffled and hundreds sick around the United States. In June 2018, officials reported the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria had been found in an irrigation canal in the Yuma, Ariz., area, where it was originally grown, recalling all affected lettuce. While preventive controls measures (those outlined in the FSMA) should involve water testing measures or finished product cleaning measures, an FMEA would have identified the irrigation canal as an ‘area of concern’ when looking at the process of growing romaine lettuce. Performing this FMEA could have prevented this health and safety catastrophe from ever occurring, proving just how beneficial an FMEA can be.


MEET OUR EXPERT
John Spillson
Food Business Development Manager

John works to develop and expand the food program at The Center. His experience operating his own business has given him knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. John comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, following both parents and grandparents in operating their own family food businesses. Prior to joining The Center, John owned and operated his own food processing company for more than 20 years.





Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.